by Janis Patterson
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know writing is a business and should be treated as such?
Unfortunately, our business has always attracted groupies and wannabes, which is both good and bad. Some do develop into good writers. Some don’t – ever, no matter how hard they try and study. Some just want to be known as having written a book, basking in the automatic profit and adulation which is inevitably due to any published writer. (You may snigger or cry here, or both.) Some just want to claim a published writer – preferably a famous one – as a dear friend – whether they actually are or not.
Along with groupies, there are others who populate our lives and must be considered – family, friends, co-workers, our children’s (or grandchildren’s) teachers and schoolmates, libraries, lecture groups – add your own categories in here. They are legion.
Unless they are a writer, though, most people don’t realize that this is a business, and not an easy one. People who wouldn’t dream of calling you to chat or expect you to go lunch/shopping/to a movie during the day if you were Assistant Supervisor of Fralumpkins at Blurpkinner Enterprises will happily interrupt your writing. After all, you’re just writing, and that’s easy, isn’t it? And everyone knows that if you work at home you aren’t really working, are you? You’re your own boss, so you can do what you want. Then they get offended when you say you can’t, interpreting it as you don’t want to be with them. The situation is even worse for those dedicated writers (of whom I stand in awe) who juggle a day job and children, squeezing their writing into those precious slivers of time between immutable obligations.
Writing is work, something that must be pursued and applied and sacrificed for. Writing well is all that and more, just harder. And it’s not just writing – there is publicity that must be done, street teams organized, interviews done, guest blogs… all kinds of things that must be done to get your name and your book, once it is finished and published, in front and hopefully in the hands of the buying public. If you’re self-publishing, the work load is doubled. You must deal with (and pay for!) editors and cover artists and, unless you are computerly gifted, conversion into the various electronic formats – to say nothing of the brave new world of paperback self-publication.
Plus, in the middle of all this you need to be writing the next book. One of the facts of success in the publishing world is having books for the reader to read. Perhaps literary authors can linger for years between books as their fans wait and salivate for their next offering, but popular fiction writers are expected to produce much and often or their career withers on the vine. Sigh.
So – lunch? A movie? Shopping? Forget it. You’ve got to work, whether or not the people who populate your life understand.
Unfortunately, this disregard for the hard work of writing is not a new thing. Charles Dickens once wrote :
“‘It is only half an hour’–’It is only an afternoon’–’It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes–or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day… Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”
As usual, he said it much better than I ever could. Way to go, Mr. Dickens!
Now – back to work.